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Prevalence and Causes of Subconjunctival Hemorrhage in Children.

OBJECTIVE: Subconjunctival hemorrhage (SCH) is a reported sign of occult abusive injury, but there are limited published data about SCH during childhood. We sought to determine the prevalence and causes of SCH in children.

METHODS: This is a retrospective cross-sectional study of children seen by pediatric ophthalmologists in an outpatient setting over 4 years. Primary outcomes were prevalence and causes of SCH, based on history, physical ocular and nonocular findings, and laboratory and imaging studies. Subconjunctival hemorrhage prevalence was determined including and excluding eye surgery to reduce bias in the prevalence estimate.

RESULTS: We studied 33,990 children, who underwent 86,277 examinations (median age, 5 years; range, 2 days to 18 years; 9282 younger than 2 years, 13,447 age 2-7 years, 11,261 age 8-18 years). There were 949 cases of SCH (1.1%; 95% confidence interval, 1.0-1.2). When surgery was excluded, there were 313 cases (prevalence, 0.4%; 95% confidence interval, 0.3-0.4), of which 261 (83%) were due to trauma; 40 (13%) ocular surface inflammation, including infectious conjunctivitis; 7 (2%) orbital or conjunctival lesion; 3 (1%) vessel rupture from choking or cough; and 2 (1%) coagulopathy related. Across all ages, including less than 2 years, trauma and inflammation together accounted for 94% to 97% of all cases of SCH.

CONCLUSIONS: Subconjunctival hemorrhage is uncommon in children. The great majority of cases are due to trauma. All children with SCH, including infants and young children, should be closely examined to identify other ocular or nonocular signs of trauma.

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